Toyota amps up hybrids, plans an electric city car by 2012
Christine Tierney / The Detroit News
Toyota Motor Corp. plans to launch as many as 10 new gas-electric hybrids in the next five years, including the third-generation Prius and an all-new Lexus hybrid, the HS 250h, that it will unveil at the Detroit auto show.
The Japanese automaker also said it would market an electric city car with a roughly 50-mile range by 2012, and it will show an electric concept car, the FT-EV, at the 2009 North American International Auto Show to give an idea of what type of vehicle it has in mind.
The FT-EV electric car concept, shown two months after the company displayed a natural gas-powered Camry hybrid concept in Los Angeles, "signals Toyota's intention to broaden the scope of its advanced alternative-fuel vehicle development," the automaker said in a statement Saturday.
But Toyota reiterated that it considers gas-electric hybrids its "long-term core powertrain technology."
In addition to the new Prius scheduled to hit U.S. dealer showrooms late this spring, Toyota confirmed that it would start deliveries of 500 Prius plug-in hybrids equipped with lithium-ion batteries to lease-fleet customers in late 2009. It said 150 would be delivered to U.S. fleet customers.
Toyota will display the electric car concept on Sunday, the first day of press previews for the auto show. The FT-EV concept shares a platform with the iQ urban four-seater already on sale in Japan, but the company did not say whether it would serve as the basis for the electric car it will sell in 2012.
"Toyota's FT-EV concept imagines an urban dweller, driving up to 50 miles between home, work and other forms of public transportation," Toyota said in a statement. It did not say what type of battery would power the electric car it plans to market.
"Last summer's $4-a-gallon gasoline was no anomaly. It was a brief glimpse of our future," Irv Miller, group vice president of Toyota Motor Sales Inc., said in a statement. "We must address the inevitability of peak oil by developing vehicles powered by alternatives to liquid-oil fuel, as well as new concepts, like the iQ, that are lighter in weight and smaller in size."
Such vehicles will improve the fuel-efficiency of Toyota's model lineup -- but the company said gas-electric hybrids will be its core powertrain technology. Toyota already is the world's biggest seller of hybrid vehicles and sold more than 400,000 last year.
Toyota officials say gas-electric hybrids provide the best combination of cost and fuel efficiency and environmental benefit. The technology is proven, the fueling infrastructure is in place, and hybrids can be sold in large volumes.